The 1980's were a time of excess. Business was good, and there was money to spend. However it was not a great time for the automobile as a whole. More stringent emissions and safety standards were castrating the output of the average engine, and making good styling a challenge.
Take the 1982 Chevrolet Corvette as an example, it was a mean looking car yet it generated well under 200 horsepower from an 8 cylinder engine and had funny looking bumpers.
Luckily some German car manufacturers found a way to make the driving experience great again with some motorsports inspired models that could be bought at the dealerships.
Here is our list of the best 3 German cars of the 1980s, as decided by the staff at MGC Suspensions. See if you agree.
3. 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera
The 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera was the last of the long running 1974-1989 G-series body style. It's a 2866 pound car with a 3.2 liter, horizontally opposed, air-cooled, 6 cylinder engine that produces 214 horsepower at 5900 rpm. This Carrera also produces 195 lb-ft of rear engined torque at 6560 rpm. These numbers were good for achieving 0-60 times in the mid 5 second range, and a top speed of 152 mph. The G-body cars were available in 3 variants, coupe, cabriolet, and targa, with the stiffest body coupes being the most desirable. One of the best updates to the later Carrera was the Getrag G50 5-speed gearbox that replaced the old 915 gearbox in 1987. It was a more robust unit that was nearly trouble free.
The 3.2 engine was made of 80% new parts compared to the previous 3.0 SC yielding a gain of around 35 horsepower. Suspension and brake upgrades for 1989 made this the best driving G-body car there was. 1990 brought the all new Porsche 964 model car that was a complete departure from the previous 1974-1989 models. Which do you prefer?
There are some fun quirks that set the Porsche apart and make it an absolute joy to drive. Floor mounted pedals take some time to get used to, but evoke a go-cart or race car type feel to the footwork. The front and center tachometer is an old school Porsche staple that shows the car is all business. And to this day Porsche cars have the ignition key placed on the left, a nod to LeMans racing of yesterday.
These air-cooled Porsches have a soul to them that make them very fun to drive, even in the face of some issues. The air conditioning and heater dont work very well, they still need valve adjustments, and there is no power steering. The Porsche 911 suspension utilized a torsion bar setup until 1989 and used Bilstein shocks and tubular control arms.
These issues are quickly forgotten as soon as you drive one. They make a glorious air-cooled sound, and obviously keep the iconic 911 shape. The 1989 Carrera isn't as valuable as pre-1974 cars right now, but a clean example is still going to come at a premium. Be ready to pay more than the original 1989 base sticker price of 51,000 dollars to get your hands on one. Luckily, Porsche performance suspension parts are readily available. Coilover conversion kits, torsion bars, shocks, control arms, and sway bar kits are easy to find on great sites like www.mgcsuspensions.com
2. 1987 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16
Based on the W201 4-door sedan platform, this simple Sacco designed, entry level "baby Benz" was first introduced in 1982. With rising pressure, and laws to manufacturer efficient cars that got good gas mileage, Mercedes-Benz knew they were going to have to design a small, 4-cylinder option. And that they did. The 190 class was a tiny car, that would be the smallest 4-door car today by a huge margin. It was also on one of the most fuel saving cars of the day.
In 1984, to offer a vehicle for certain race classes, Mercedes-Benz secretly built the 190E 2.3-16. It was offered as a homologation vehicle, so they could run a version in the world rally championships. These plans were almost instantly crushed with Audi's introduction of the Quattro.
The 190E utilized a 2.3 liter fuel injected, inline 4 cylinder engine with a Cosworth supplied, 16 valve cylinder head. This engine produces 167 horsepower at 5800 rpm, and makes 162 lb-ft of torque at 4750 rpm. As a 3030 pound vehicle, it has a 0-60 time of 7.8 seconds, and a top speed of 143 mph. This rear wheel drive beauty runs a 5-speed Getrag manual gearbox only.
The interior is all Mercedes-Benz, just smaller. All the normal switch gear is present and screwed together tightly, so even today, well cared for examples have no squeaks or rattles. The front and rear Recaro bucket seats are fine grain leather that have stood the test of time and offer great bolstering.
The 2.3-16 variant has a very aggressive body kit that is responsible for reducing lift by half over the base model 190. It also saw the introduction of a patented 5-link rear suspension setup that was top technology for the day, giving drivers ultimate control. The rear suspension also utilizes self-leveling shock absorbers.
One awesome fact about the 190E 2.3-16 is that during development and testing in 1983, it broke world speed records averaging 154 mph over 31,000 miles. Suspension and braking upgrades gave this baby Benz the best handling and shortest stopping distances of any Mercedes-Benz, or any car of the period.
If you have any desire to own one of these 16 valve cars, you better get one now. They are quickly gaining in popularity and are being sought after by collectors. Excellent build quality and reliability, combined with current affordability make these small Mercedes-Benz's very desirable. Mercedes-Benz performance suspension parts include coilovers, shocks, and sway bars, these can be great modern suspension upgrades for the 190.
A decent, ready to enjoy example that has a few small issues can be bought for under 20,000 today. But don't expect that to be the case for too long.
1. 1988 BMW M3
Based on the legendary E30 body platform the 1988 BMW M3 is considered one of the best driving and handling cars ever made. The M version cars were introduced in 1983 to basically destroy Mercedes-Benz on the race track. The 1988 model benefits from a lot of upgrades and improvements since the M's beginnings.
Using a 2.3 liter, fuel injected, inline 4 cylinder engine, this BMW E30 M is good for 192 horsepower at 6750 rpm and 170 lb-ft of torque at 4750 rpm. It gets its large dose of air intake through 4 separate throttle bodies.
The engine block is a derivative of BMW's Formula 1 block that can handle 1,000 horsepower. The cylinder head is the same as the M1 super car, just missing 2 cylinders. This engine has the bragging right of making the most horsepower per liter of any car at the time, including Ferrari.
One thing that makes the E30 M3 a beautiful car is the aggressive boxed, widened fender flares that are used to allow for wider, stickier tires. Race inspired ground effects and rear spoiler also make this car unique.
The interior came from a time when BMW build quality was arguably the best. A well cared for example will have an interior that is still inviting, and a comfortable place to be. An ergonomically pleasing layout of the dials and switches makes driving even more enjoyable. The M3 has a firm, easy to throw 5-speed shifter.
One of the main upgrades of the M3 is a much lower, stiffer BMW suspension that uses larger diameter sway bars and firmer dampers. Cornering is flat and turn-in is very predictable. Modern BMW coilover kits, as well as M3 specific sway bars can make the handling even better than factory.
With a MSRP of 34,000 in 1988, they weren't cheap. Today a good example can be found under 20,000. A great value for what you get.
All of these features combine to make the E30 BMW M3 a great drivers car, most likely the best of its era, and its MGC's choice for the best German car of the 1980's.
Let us know your thoughts. What is your favorite German car from the 1980's? Feel free to visit www.mgcsuspensions.com for all your German car suspension parts needs.
We have a great selection of Coilovers, lowering springs, suspension kits, shocks, struts and more. Great suspension brands like H&R, KW, Ohlins, Bilstein, and others are available.